Small Sailboat

Shopping for a Small Sailboat

We’re searching for a small sailboat. While we already have a small boat, we’d like a portable or cartoppable sailboat to use while camping.

We’d love to be able to go sailing when we are camping. When we get to a waterfront campground like Belle Isle State Park, we want to get on the water. While we could rent kayaks, finding a sailboat for rent is much less common. So, it would be great to have a small portable sailboat.

We currently have a Bauer 12 sailing dinghy. It’s a great boat. But at 285 pounds, it travels on a trailer. That means we can’t take it with us when we go camping.

Our new sailboat needs to be able to have a crew of 2 adults. It needs to be easily carried on a truck rack or packed in the bed of the truck. Lifting 150 pounds above our heads is a bit daunting so we’d like it to be less than 100 pounds, if possible. If there is an easy way to load it, we would consider a slightly heavier boat.

There are a lot of possibilities and we have some decisions to make. For example, do we want a dinghy that we can sit in? That might mean we stay drier while sailing. Or would a boat that you sit on while sailing be a better choice? Is cartoppable or inflatable the right choice for our needs?

If we go with a cartoppable boat, we’ll need to get a truck rack. The one that works with our Access roll cover is the Adarac truck rack.  It comes in several versions and can support up to 500 pounds. Of course, we need to factor in the weight of other camping gear and our travel trailer to determine how much we can actually carry on the rack. 

Normally, we would go to a sailboat show like the Annapolis Sailboat Show to check out the possibilities. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like a possibility this year.

While it’s early in the search, I thought I’d share what I have learned so far. I’d love your input. Let me know if you have a portable or cartoppable sailboat and how well it works for you. Thanks.

Small Dinghy Sailboats

Dinghies are intended as tenders for larger boats. They transport the crew, gear and supplies to and from shore. However, they can also work well as small sailboats. You typically sit in the boat, either on the floor or on a bench.

Dyer Dhow

The Dyer Dhow looks like a traditional hard dinghy. It has a single sail and can also be rowed or have a small outboard. Made in Bristol, RI by a traditional boat maker, the manufacturer doesn’t have a web site. However, you can find info at: The Dingy Shop.

Weight106 pounds
Length9′ 2″
Crew2-4
Capacity650 pounds
Sail TypeMain only

Here is a nice short video: the Cruising World Dinghy Decisions Dyer Dhow.

Pros: good capacity, not too heavy

Cons: dinghy-style boat may be taller on a rack

Walker Bay 8

The Walker Bay 8 can be outfitted with a sail kit. It can also be rowed or have a small outboard. It is a roto-molded hull. Information can be found at West Marine.

Weight106 pounds
Length8′ 2″
Crew2
Capacity425 pounds
Sail TypeMain only

Pros: good capacity, not too heavy

Cons: dinghy-style boat may be taller on a rack

Walker Bay 275

The Walker Bay 275 is a Walker Bay 8 with an inflatable stability ring. There is a good video from Cruising World of the Walker Bay 275 where you can see it in action.

Note: no specs available

Pros: good capacity, not too heavy

Cons: dinghy-style boat may be taller on a rack, finding one to purchase may be a challenge

Hard or Rotomolded Sailboats

Aqua Finn

The Aqua Finn is a daysailer made by American Sail in Charleston, SC. It’s a hard fiberglass boat similar to a Sunfish. With a single Lateen rigged sail, it is easy to set up and easy to sail. It can accommodate two adults. However, you sit on the edge of the boat rather than in it. There is a well where you put your feet.

Aqua Finn Sailboat on Beach
Aqua Finn Photo Courtesy of American Sail
Weight130 pounds
Length14′
Crew2
Capacity374 pounds
Sail TypeLateen

There is a nice YouTube video of the Aqua Finn rigging and sailing.

Pros: easy to rig, popular boat, should accommodate two adults

Cons: 130 pounds may be challenging to load

Laser

A Laser is a small, fast sailboat. These are frequently found in club racing leagues and sailing schools. You can check out this Laser Sailboat Video for a look.

Weight130 pounds
Length13′ 10″
Crew1-2
CapacityOptimal weight 160-190 pounds. Might be best for single-handed sailing.
Sail TypeMain only

Pros: popular boat

Cons: 130 pounds may be challenging to load, might be small for two adults

Laser Pico

A Laser Pico is intended as a fun sailboat for use by a family. It has a roto-molded hull. You can use just the single main sail or add the optional jib. Adding the jib is a great way to get experience with a somewhat more complex but also faster sailing rig. While listed as a cartoppable sailboat, at 155 pounds, this would really be pushing what we think we can easily load onto a truck rack. It might also be on the small side for two adults.

Weight155 pounds
Length11′ 6″
Crew1-2
CapacityUnable to find.
Sail TypeMain only + optional Jib

Pros: popular boat, Jib adds speed and sailing challenge

Cons: 150 pounds may be challenging to load, might be small for two adults

RS Zest

The RS Zest is designed by the same person who created the Laser Pico. While it appears to be a similar roto-molded boat, the hull has a somewhat different shape. Using a curved design, the Zest provides several sitting positions in and on the side of the boat. The Zest also has a centerboard rather than a daggerboard. That means that it may be easier to beach without having to pull up the daggerboard as you reach shallow water.

Weight150 pounds
Length11′ 9″
Crew1-2
Capacity496 pounds
Sail TypeMain only

Looking at the setup of the Zest, it appears that the mast is easy to step. The main sail is reefable, which means it can be made smaller for easier handling on windy days.

Sail Magazine did a nice review of the Zest. I found this YouTube video review demonstrating the Zest on a windy day to be interesting. This YouTube video shows what it might be like to have two adults on board.

Pros: easy to set up, reefable main, good capacity

Cons: 150 pounds may be challenging to load

Sunchaser

The Sunchaser 1 seems pretty well suited to our needs. It has a simple Lateen rig and can carry up to 4 people. An alternative version, the Sunchaser 2, uses main and jib sails. The Sunchaser is made by CastleCraft who also makes Snark and Sunflower sailboats.

The manufacturer recommends people consider the single sail 1 as it is much faster to set up. We need to consider what is more important, the fun of having a two sail setup vs the time it takes each time to get on the water.

Weight125 pounds
Length11′ 9″
Crew1-4
Capacity900 pounds
Sail TypeLateen or Main & Jib

There is a Sunchaser video showing two adults and their small dog in the boat.

Pros: good crew capacity for a small boat, easy to rig

Cons: 125 pounds may be challenging to load

Sunfish

The Sunfish is a classic small sailboat that has been made since 1952. Through the years, Sunfish have been made by Alcort, AMF, Pearson and others. Sunfish are currently manufacturerd by Laser Performance who also makes Laser sailboats. The Sunfish has a fiberglass hull and often has a colorful sail. While often used as a fun recreational boat, they are often also used in racing.

Weight130 pounds
Length13′ 10″
Crew1-2
CapacityOptimal weight, up to 190 pounds
Sail TypeLateen

Similar to the Aqua Finn, sailors sit on the side of the boat with their feet in a well. I have had the chance to sail a Sunfish once and it was a lot of fun to singlehand. However, it might be on the light side with regard to how much weight it can carry.

Pros: popular boat, easy to set up

Cons: 130 pounds may be challenging to load, might be small for two adults

Sunflower

Another nice small boat from Castle Craft, the Sunflower has a single Lateen sail. It is a somewhat larger version of the Super Snark sailboat. At only 55 pounds, this would be a great option for carrying on a truck rack or cartop. However, its weight capacity is only 310 which might be better suited to an adult and child or two teens rather than two adults

Weight55 pounds
Length11′
Crew1-2
Capacity310 pounds
Sail TypeLateen

You can find a video showing the Sunflower on the water. It looks like a fun boat for one adult.

Pros: extremely light, easy to set up

Cons: might be small for two adults

Topaz Taz

The Topaz Taz looks like a fun little sailboat. However, for our requirements, it might be a bit too small. The Taz weighs in at only 88 pounds. It can have a crew of up to two, but might be better suited to two youth.

Weight88 pounds
Length9′ 7″
Crew1-2
CapacityUnable to find
Sail TypeMain

Pros: relatively light weight

Cons: might be small for two adults

Topaz Topper

The Topper is also made by Topaz and is intended to be a cartoppable sailboat, hence the name Topper. Topaz is known for competitive racing boats and their boats do look fun to sail. They are manufactured in the UK.

Weight95 pounds
Length11′ 2″
Crew1-2
CapacityUnable to find
Sail TypeMain

Pros: acceptable weight

Cons: might be small for two adults, unsure of weight capacity

Inflatable Sailboats

Tiwal 3

The Tiwal 3 is an inflatable sailboat with an aluminum frame. The frame makes it easy to lean out from the edge of the boat, or hike out, while sailing. With its flat shape, it looks more like a windsurfer than a dinghy. But, it also looks like a lot of fun to sail. The Tiwal 3 won Boat of the Year in 2014. The smaller Tiwal 2 was selected as Boat of the Year in 2020.

Tiwal 3 Sailboat With 2 Adults Sailing
Tiwal 3 Photo Courtesy of Tiwal

This Best Value Family Sailboat does a nice job showing the advantages of a portable sailboat like the Tiwal. To get a sense of the Tiwal, here is a Tiwal 3 video showing it under sail and also being righted.

Weight124 pounds
Length11′ 2″
Crew1-2
Capacity440 pounds
Sail TypeMain, reefable

I appreciate that the Tiwal 3 can be packed into two bags for transport. With the Tiwal, we would not need a truck rack. However, the bags are 62 pounds each and are almost 5 feet long. Total storage dimensions would be 4′ 9″ X 32″ X 14 inches. My concern with this approach is that it may take up a significant amount of the storage in our pickup bed.

Tiwal claims that takes about 20 minutes to setup. If you want to see the setup steps, check out the video of the Tiwal assembly contest where the winner assembled it in 10 minutes 24 seconds.

Pros: transport in bags doesn’t require truck rack, good crew capacity

Cons: may take longer to setup

Folding or Inflatable Catamarans

Hobie Mirage Island

Take a single or double Hobie Kayak, add outriggers and a sail kit and you have the Hobie Mirage Island. You can also add trampolines to the outriggers giving flexibility in where you sit. It looks like a lot of fun. And, if you ever get “stuck in irons” or lose the wind, you can pedal the kayak using Hobie’s MirageDrive system.

WeightHull only 102 pounds, Fully rigged 185 pounds
Length18′ 6″
Crew1-2
CapacityUnable to find
Sail TypeMain

The downside to an approach like this might be the time and weight. It may take a bit of time to set up the outriggers and sails. For travel, all of the components would need to be loaded rather than a single hull. Another concern is that the double kayak is pretty long to carry on a truck rack.

Here is a good Hobie Mirage Island Video.

Pros: stable but fun boat, pedal drive adds flexibility

Cons: may take longer to setup, long length to load

Minicat Guppy & Minicat 310

The Minicat Guppy is an inflatable catamaran. It folds into one bag for transportation. The Minicat 310 is a somewhat larger inflatable catamaran that folds into two bags. While these look like fun portable sailboats, my concerns are around setup time and how well they sail. We tried an inflatable kayak that offers fun on the water but doesn’t really perform well as a kayak. If you have tried a Minicat, we’d love to hear from you.

Guppy Specifications

Weight60 pounds
Length9′ 10″
Crew1-2
Capacity518 pounds
Sail TypeMain

Minicat 310 Specifications

Weight77 pounds
Length10′ 1″
Crew1-2
Capacity529 pounds
Sail TypeMain

It appears that Minicat are manufactured in the Czech Republic. The US distributor is Red Beard Sailing. They have great information and videos about Minicat sailboats on their site.

Pros: transport in bags doesn’t require truck rack, good crew capacity

Cons: may take longer to setup

XCat

The XCat is an innovative hard-hulled catamaran that is assembled from a few components. By breaking it down, it is easier to carry on a rack or car roof. And, the smaller components are easier to transport to the launching area. The tradeoff is that the sailboat would need to be assembled for each use.

Weight121 pounds + sail components 44 pounds
Length16′ 6″
Crew1-2
CapacityUnable to find
Sail TypeMain and Jib

The XCat is made by Row&Sail in Austria. They have some helpful videos showing assembly and use on their site. A US dealer is Red Beard Sailing.

Pros: weight divided into smaller components for easier loading

Cons: may take longer to setup, long length to load

Sailboat Shopping Summary

From our list, you can see we have our work cut out for us on making a decision about which small sailboat would be the perfect addition to our camping gear.

Do you sail while camping? Have you used any of the boats we listed? We’d love to hear from you. What would you recommend as a good portable sailboat to use while camping? Thanks.

Copyright 2021 Travel Trail Sail. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Credit: JD Lasica, Creative Commons. Note: image cropped.

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